A third panel of the Court of Appeal will have to weigh in on a procedural appeal over the future of a multi-million dollar cartel case over contracts awarded by the Estate Management and Business Development Company Ltd (EMBD) in the run-up to the 2015 general election.
Delivering a decision yesterday afternoon, Appellate Judge Maria Wilson maintained her position that she should recuse herself from the case as her brother Fulton served as a member of EMBD’s Board between 2015 and 2021.
Reiterating what she announced during a previous hearing on Monday, Justice Wilson claimed that while she could act impartially in the appeal she still had to step down based on public perception of her brother’s link to the state board.
Justice Wilson’s decision means that a new panel has to be assigned to determine the appeal. A case management conference before the new panel is expected to take place next week.
The substantive lawsuit centres around 12 contracts for the rehabilitation of roads and infrastructure, which were granted to five contractors before the September 2015 general election.
Contractors TN Ramnauth, Mootilal Ramhit and Sons Contracting Ltd (Ramhit), and Kall Company Ltd (Kallco) initiated the proceedings against the state-owned special purpose company for the almost $200 million balance owed on their respective contracts.
The EMBD counter-sued the contractors claiming that they, as well as contractors Fides and Namalco, conspired together with Moonilal, former EMBD CEO Gary Parmassar, former divisional manager Madhoo Balroop, and engineer Andrew Walker to corruptly obtain the contracts.
It also claimed that the parties agreed to facilitate the contractors receiving preliminary payments for the work which was allegedly overpriced and substandard and utilised a loan, meant to pay for other legitimate contracts, to make interim payments to the contractors.
Through the lawsuit, the EMBD is seeking a series of declarations against the parties including one on the illegality of the contracts.
In the appeal, three of the contractors are contending that former High Court judge and current Appellate Judge James Aboud got it wrong when he dismissed their application to strike out the case against them.
They are contending that EMBD did not provide enough particulars on its allegations against them for them to properly respond to the lawsuit.
However, Justice Aboud ruled that EMBD had presented sufficient preliminary facts, which should be determined by the court at an eventual trial.
After hearing submissions in the appeal in May, the panel promised to deliver its judgment on June 30.
Appellate Judges Mira Dean-Armorer and Ronnie Boodoosingh first considered the appeal in early 2021 but had to refer the case to their colleagues as they could not come to a unanimous decision.
EMBD was represented by David Phillips, KC, and Jason Mootoo, SC. The contractors’ legal team was led by Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, SC, and Jagdeo Singh.